The Image of Mexican Heroes in American Films

Paul Vanderwood


As historical recreations of Mexican history, the motion pictures Juárez (1939) and Viva Zapata! (1952) can undoubtedly be faulted. Although some have argued that they capture the spirit or the essence of the dramas they depict, factual errors, as we presently seem to understand those facts, are obvious in each film, as is a misplaced overall emphasis which endows these Mexican heroes with characteristics and motives they hardly possessed. But such criticism comes easy and misses the point. The movies were never intended as near-factual historical representations. Juárez and Zapata were instead deliberately tailored to fit contemporary concerns in United States society and the movie industry itself, thereby making each film a fascinating document for the study of that period in which they were produced.

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